Why Don't You Call?
How to Manage Long-Distance Relationships With Your Kids
Chat 'Em Up
Go beyond swapping "How was your day?" and try to make the most out of your conversations by asking the right kinds of questions. "If you know that your child doesn't like to open up about emotional things, bring up a specific topic regarding work or school," suggests family therapist Michael Gurian, best-selling author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Teachers and Parents. "If the child is taking economics classes, for example, ask her what her views are of Obama's economic policy," he says. Whatever topic you choose to discuss, be sure to ask open-ended questions that show genuine curiosity.
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Sometimes you may be genuinely curious about the more private matters in your child's life, but asking about these touchy subjects can be tricky. "First of all, prying is not such a bad thing," says Gurian. "Unless you have a rancorous relationship with a grown child already, 'prying' can actually be done with a nice sense of humor and some self-deprecation." If you're going to ask a personal question, then diffuse any potential tension by acknowledge that you might be pushing the boundaries. He suggests trying something like, "OK, I know I'm prying, but you've just got to tell me what's going on with so-and-so."
That said, prying also requires some give and take, since you're both adults now. "If you're going to ask your child about something, be ready to talk about the same thing in your own life," says Gurian. "To get to the 'good stuff' over the phone, you often have to divulge your own 'good stuff.'"